“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
When I returned to college for graduate school, I was able to secure a job in the Bursar’s office. I was the youngest in the group and my co-workers doted
on me! I was so blessed to be around these fabulous ladies. We worked hard, but we also cared about each other. It was while I worked here that I started dating Mr. Valentine. I remember us all being in the window watching him cross the street to pick me up from work one day. They were so very excited for me and when I became a mother, they showered me with so many gifts that my oldest was nine months old before I needed to buy anything for him, and even then, the only thing he needed were two sun hats. The head bursar was maybe pushing 70 years old. A very elegant and sophisticated lady, she was probably still working to occupy her time during the day. There was one phrase that stuck with me. If someone had a special situation that needed a waiver of the rules, she would grant it as long as we had “documentation to support it.”
There was another lady Ms. Ro who was so much fun. She consider me her work daughter and could guide me with her eyes or expressions when the situation called for non-verbal instructions. She was a jazzy dresser and loved her family very much. One other lady was a very down to earth, “love me or leave me” kind of lady. She didn’t work too hard to make you like her. Either you liked her or you didn’t. She had interesting life stories to tell from her battle with alcohol. As a “Alcoholics Anonymous” graduate, she would share some of the sayings with me. “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch, yard by yard, life gets hard” was my favorite. She was also a mother and knew that her battles had impacted her children, but the love that she shared with them overcome her shortcomings.
And finally there was Mrs. Inker. She was the mother of three children – boy, girl, boy. Ms. Inker was the consummate sacrificial mom. Every day, Ms. Inker had one school lunch container of milk for lunch. She was saving for her children’s education. I know that her husband was a good provider, but Ms. Inker had plans for her babies and food wasn’t going to stand in the way. She shared how the mother’s role and responsibility was to educate her children. She talked about taking them for walks and pointing out what everything was called – green grass, pretty yellow flower, blue sky. Here oldest son was going to be a doctor – any mother’s dream, but especially a Jewish mother. She creatively invested the student loans that her children qualified for (but didn’t need for their education) and invested it so when her son was ready to apply for med school, there was some money available to cover some of the expenses. She was always patient and kind. She was always good about teaching me the Jewish traditions, which I really treasure to this day.
No mother mentoring tribute would be complete without talking about my own mother. I appreciate her and understand more of her struggle now. She was a natural and professional teacher. Her own mother died from tuberculosis when my mom was a small child and that impacted her in ways that I don’t think she noticed until she became a mom. She and my aunt were raised by their father and maternal grandmother who never forgave my grandfather for the death of her daughter. There is so much to unpack, but now that I understand the importance of processing grief, forgiveness and how these things impact our mental wellness, the pieces of the puzzle fit a little better.
She wanted to be loved beyond anything else and that resulted in some destructive behavior, which is what I focused on with a very judgmental lens. As a child, you want your mother to be normal. As an adult, I truly understand the struggles and am glad I had her as a model. Her love and support carries me to this day. There is so much about her journey that trained me for this wonderful expedition of raising three sons. My mom died a few months before my oldest son graduated from high school. I saw this as her way of saying, you got it from here, Stephanie - Keep going. I am trying so hard, Ma. I wish you
were here to see the fellas, but I know you are cheering us on from the balcony. I love and miss you.